Consulting with coaches to minimise the effect of stress in an Olympic environment

Peter Sanford, High Performance Sport NZ, New Zealand

Theme: Consulting/private practice

Program ID: SYM-11

Presentation: October 3, 2013 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

Room: Melrose


In an Olympic environment athletes must manage outcome expectations and performance pressure (Hermansson & Hodge, 2012; McCann, 2008). It is also documented the stress experienced by coaches to perform at the elite level (Olusoga et al., 2009). Using a scientist-practitioner approach this case study will illustrate how the sport psychology consultant worked with a coach to implement a psychological skills training programme leading into an Olympic Games. This programme had two goals: (1) work with the coach to develop their own coping strategies to manage stress leading up to and during an Olympic games (Olusoga et al., 2012), and (2) to introduce the coach to the applied principles of an autonomy-supportive coaching model, with the vision of empowering the athletes to manage the stress of the Olympic games experience (Mallett, 2005). Despite best intentions of the neophyte sport psychology consultant (SPC); the approach was ineffective. The presentation will explore and explain the failure of the programme from several perspectives: (1) failure to manage the conflict within multi-disciplinary team, and the impact of the conflict on the coach and athletes’ stress (Reid et al. 2004), (2) lack of performance management from the sport’s high performance leadership, creating organisational stress that effected the coach (Fletcher & Arnold, 2011), (3) the SPC’s limited scope of practice to support the coach’s mental health challenges in an isolated ‘holding’ camp, and (4) the late development of mistrust from the coach regarding the SPC’s work with the athletes. These factors will highlight the importance of the coach as a performer; not only to get the best out of the athletes, but themselves, and the providers they lead during an Olympic campaign.

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